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The Power of Pragmatics: Language In Context

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This course is for anyone with an interest in the English language and the enthusiasm to take that interest further.

It operates as part of the Inside Narratives pathway and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses in the pathway.

In this module, we will consider some aspects of what speakers do when they are understanding and using language. We will look at some of the key areas to do with the crucial bits of information (both linguistic and non-linguistic) that we rely on in daily life to make ourselves understood and to understand what is being said. We will draw on real-life examples of language in use (from the radio, TV, magazines, blogs) to examine how we manage to navigate the unpredictable seas of human language and communication without finding ourselves stranded too often.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through three workshops on Saturdays from 10:00 to 17:00.

These sessions will consist of a mixture of lectures and group-work. The discussion and group-work will enable the students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures. There will also be an opportunity for learning outside of the classroom, facilitated by the university's virtual learning environment, Learning Central.


Week 1: Politeness, indexing identity, footing and power

  • Goffman’s theory of face.
  • Politeness: positive and negative face, speaker and hearer, strategies for mitigation.
  • The Participation Framework and ‘Footing’.
  • Applying the Participation Framework to examples from the mass media.

Week 2: How to do things with words

  • Speech Act Theory.
  • Cultural differences in the use and understanding of Speech Acts.

Week 3: Talking about this and that: Meaning negotiation, deixis, anaphor and cataphor

  • Meaning formation: ambivalence, collaboration and negotiation.
  • Introduction to deixis, anaphor and cataphor.
  • Applying deixis and x-phor to examples.

This course operates as part of the Inside Narratives pathway.

Coursework and assessment

Students will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work amounting to about 1,500 words. Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.